Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Road to Berlin

The US national soccer team wrapped up World Cup Qualifying with a good ending. By beating Panama 2-0 in Boston last night (and Mexico blowing it against Trinidad & Tobago), the US finished World Cup Qualifying in first place for the North American region called CONCACAF. The US has qualified for numerous World Cups in the past but has never finished first. A great accomplishment.

Now the question is whether the US will get one of the eight seeds in next June's World Cup in Germany. In theory, the eight seeded teams are suppose to be the best eight teams in the world. The advantage of being a seeded team is that you won't have to play one of the other seven seeded teams in the first round of the tournament. A nice advantage.

Here is the arguement for the US getting one of those top eight seeds:

  • The US finished eighth in the last World Cup in 2002.
  • The US is currently ranked seventh in the world according to FIFA's own rankings.
  • The US was the best team in its qualifying region (there are six regions in FIFA's world).
Here is the arguement against the US getting one of those top slots:
  • In the previous World Cup in 1998, we qualified but finished last of 32 teams.
  • The FIFA rankings are crap and nobody understands the statistical equation that generates them.
  • Our region is not one of the best two regions in the world. Europe and South America are the best.
So, it basically boils down to the fact that FIFA never announces what their criteria is for determining the seeds. They say it is loosely based upon past performances but there is a major fudge factor invloved in the final decision. Therefore, historically, the seeds other than the automatic seed for the home team) have gone to the traditional powers of soccer. The US is an up-and-coming program and far from a traditional power. In fact, most major soccer powers still don't acknolwedge the success and advances the US program has made. Sprinkle in some international politics and you have a recipe for an old boys club and backroom negotiations that will likely prevent the US from getting a seed.

Having said all that, here is who I think will be seeded:
  • Germany (host)
  • Brazil
  • Argentina
  • Italy
  • France
  • Netherlands
  • England
  • Spain
A lot of people believe Mexico will get a seed ahead of a European team like Spain or Netherlands but Mexico has flopped in a number of World Cups and struggle with the same respect issue that the US does.

By the way, as a result of T&T's victory over Mexico, they will now play a home-and-home playoff against Asia's fifth best team (either Bahrain or Uzbekistan). Imagine the travel headaches trying to get from Tashkent to Port of Spain. I just ried to buy a one-way ticket for that trip for kicks but Travelocity melted down and said it couldn't do it. So I broke it up into Tashkent to Tokyo and then Tokyo to Port of Spain. You'd be looking at about $6,000 in airfare and a shitload of time with cramped leg space. Happy travels, guys.

Enough rambling. On a music note, I'm off to see Jens Lekman. Here are a pair of live tunes he put up on his website:

Jens Lekman - You Are the Light (live)
Jens Lekman - Your beat kicks back like death (scout niblett)

UPDATE: extrawack! has a good post up about his trip to the US-Panama match. Also, for U2 fans, he has a nice review and photos of one of the NYC U2 shows (from in front of the stage).

ANOTHER UPDATE: 16 Horsepower has a post that explains the Uzbekistan-Bahrain situation. It looks like T&T will be facing Bahrain in the home-and-home playoff. Whichever team qualifies for the World Cup will be the smallest country to every qualify. Let's go Soca Warriors.

8 comments:

Nico said...

They're playing Bahrain because of a stupid blunder by Uzbekistan's FA. I have somewhat of a rundown about it on my blog.

Jim said...

Spain's a perennial choker, so I'm not so sure that they'll get a seed. That's even assuming that they make the World Cup, which is not a given at this point considering they'll have to do the two-leg playoff thingy. If Spain doesn't make it, I wouldn't be too surprised to see either Mexico or us get that eighth seed.

Remco said...

Hi,

For an American who claims he knows about football, you sure know what you're talking about.

But I do have to correct you, I'm afraid. USA did NOT have the best result qualifying. That's the mighty Dutch! lol

Team MP W D L GF GA Pts
USA 10 7 1 2 16 6 22
Mexico 10 7 1 2 22 9 22

Holland are:
Team MP W D L GF GA Pts
Netherlands 12 10 2 0 27 3 32
Czech Republic 12 9 0 3 35 12 27


As for the FIFA ranking: Think it was all clearly written down, though a wee bit complicated:

Check it out.
http://www.fifa.com/en/mens/statistics/rank/procedures/0,2540,3,00.html

Flatlander said...

The Dutch did have a better qualifying record but I said the US had the best in its region; not in the whole world.

By the way, Remco was the name of the great Dutch sound engineer for Pavement. He got some of the best sound out of some of the crappiest clubs. Good guy to share a name with.

scully said...

Great post. Glad to know there are other footie fans in VT. Now tell me where I can go to watch EPL games at 7am on Saturday or Sunday mornings! Pretty please?

Oh, and I'm with you on the FIFA rankings being rubbish. They need to publish the formula. Personally, I think the Americans are over-rated rank-wise. They are a good squad that has been on the pitch together a lot and like each other. I am pleased with their success and think they are a team whose time is close. But I think they benefit from weak schedule. Arena is a great manager; he gets results from his guys.

BTW, I hope you will consider joining Sportsfilter. There are good amount of football/soccer fans there from around the world, and intelligent conversation (most of the time). There are even a few fun soccer-related fantasy games being played by members. Click on my name to visit. I use the moniker "terrapin" there.

I'll stop babbling.

Flatlander said...

Scully,

Thanks for the tip on Sportsfilter. I had never even heard of the site but my initial look was interesting.

Have you checked out BigSoccer? It's mecca for soccer fans. Lots of EPL forums too.

As for a place to watch the Saturday matches, I'm useless. I have Fox Soccer Channel which I'll watch as I'm dealing with the kids but I barely get to watch more than ten minutes of EPL action at a time. Plus, I'm an American soccer snob so I only focus on the games that are featuring American players in Europe. So, I love to see Man City v Blackburn but Arsenal v Chelsea is less interesting to me.

Having said that, I think we are building a decent size group for watching the World Cup next summer at McGillicuddy's.

I'll ask Tmax ( http://www.last.fm/user/Tmax/ ) if he knows of a good place to watch EPL games. He's native to VT and very knowledgable on these matters.

scully said...

Thanks for the tips. We had FSC when we lived in MD, but we are forgoing expenses like cable right now. However, I bet if my wife knew she could watch Thierry Henry she might be willing to take a second look at cable. Is FSC part of a premium package?

We'll definitely be at McGillicuddy's come WC.

cj howareya said...

I've visited Spain and love, love, loved it. Plus my brother has lived there for about 9 years and one of my best friends for about 15.

But for someone reason watching Spain choke year after year after year has become not only hilarious -- in a sort of Bill Gates gets a pie in the face, Wooster and Jeeves, pompous fop gets his come-uppance kinda way -- but also somewhat claming and reassuring in this hectic hurdy-gurdy world of ours.

Plus Fernando Torres must have had THE worst haircut in all of Euro 2004. Quite the feat.

http://www.soccernet.com/i/euro2004/players/180x250_24257.jpg